Mark Zuckerberg rejects profits claim, slams 'false picture' of Facebook

Facebook CEO denies the company puts profits ahead of people.

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3 min read

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says he's dismayed over how his company is being portrayed.

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday broke his silence about a scandal plaguing the company in an email to employees, complaining of the "false picture" being painted of the social networking giant. The email, which was also posted to Zuckerberg's Facebook account, follows a congressional hearing about Facebook's effects on users.

"I'm sure many of you have found the recent coverage hard to read because it just doesn't reflect the company we know," Zuckerberg wrote in the email. "We care deeply about issues like safety, well-being and mental health.

"It's difficult to see coverage that misrepresents our work and our motives," he continued. "At the most basic level, I think most of us just don't recognize the false picture of the company that is being painted."

Watch this: Facebook whistleblower reveals 'disastrous' inner workings of social network

Zuckerberg's comments come after Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager who leaked thousands of internal documents about the company, urged US lawmakers to provide more active oversight of the social network, alleging that its products "harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy." 

The documents she leaked provided the basis for a Wall Street Journal series of articles that concluded, among other things, that the company ignored research about how Instagram can harm teen girls and that it performed an algorithm change to improve interaction on the platform that actually made users "angrier." Facebook contends that The Wall Street Journal mischaracterized its research.

Haugen revealed herself as the whistleblower Sunday on 60 Minutes, charging that "Facebook, over and over again, chose to optimize for its own interests, like making more money."

In his post Tuesday, Zuckerberg rejected the assertion the company is most interested in profits, saying "that's just not true." He also defended a recent change made to an algorithm that pushes content to users' News Feeds.

"This change showed fewer viral videos and more content from friends and family -- which we did knowing it would mean people spent less time on Facebook, but that research suggested it was the right thing for people's well-being," Zuckerberg wrote. "Is that something a company focused on profits over people would do?"

He also addressed his platforms' impact on teenagers, saying it's important to him to that the products Facebook builds are "safe and good" for children.

"Think about how many school-age kids have phones," he wrote. "Rather than ignoring this, technology companies should build experiences that meet their needs while also keeping them safe."

Zuckerberg pointed to Facebook's decision to pause the development of a children's version of Instagram that would include parental controls.

"Given all the questions about whether this would actually be better for kids, we've paused that project to take more time to engage with experts and make sure anything we do would be helpful."

Zuckerberg also pointed out that he's an advocate for updated internet regulations, a point Haugen touched on in her testimony Tuesday, telling lawmakers that the company needs greater oversight and should be required to disclose more information.

"Congress can change the rules that Facebook plays by and stop the many harms it is now causing," Haugen told a Senate subcommittee.